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Hall: BBC must adapt to US competition

The BBC will need to change radically as it attempts to compete with US tech companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple, according to the UK pubcaster’s director general.

Tony Hall

In a speech to staff on Wednesday, Tony Hall will argue that the corporation’s role is more important than ever in the face of “breathtaking, seismic” change from the FAANG companies, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google.

The tech giants have been expanding their content positions over the past 12 months, with Netflix signing up talent such as Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, and Apple poaching an array of top exec talent.

Meanwhile, Disney has struck a deal to pick up swathes of the 21st Century Fox operation, which is embroiled in its own battle with Comcast to buy European pay operator Sky.

Hall will argue that the BBC must adapt to this changing environment, adding that the “the global media landscape is likely to be dominated by four, perhaps five, businesses on the west coast of America.”

These companies will “skilfully mine every ounce of personal data to drive growth and profit” and “pluck established talent wherever they can find it, but their business isn’t to inspire the next generation of British talent.”

Hall’s planned speech, first reported by The Guardian, will also outline plans for the BBC to invest in and promote new talent, reinvent its OTT service iPlayer and other tech and set up a “gold standard” for news reporting.

He will also outline plans for the BBC to work more closely with other pubcasters in a bid to ensure it can help UK producers compete despite not being “the biggest kid on the block any more.”

“Nobody is fighting harder for Britain and for our audiences,” he will say. “Instead, we know audiences in the UK are still drawn inexorably to storytelling that reflects the lives and passions of our own square mile.”

Hall has hit out against US streamers before, claiming they could cause a funding shortfall in the UK TV industry, prompting derision from some, including Sky content chief Gary Davey.

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